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Rams finish in middle of the pack in special-teams rankings

Rams punter Johnny Hekker had a great season even by historic measures. Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Behind the right foot of Johnny Hekker, the Rams had one of the best punting seasons in NFL history. Hekker's 2015 season will go down as one of the most productive a punter has ever had. But despite Hekker's heroics, the Rams' special teams weren't too productive.

Each offseason, Dallas Morning News columnist Rick Gosselin uses a formula consisting of 22 categories to rate each team's performance on special teams. After the Rams finished ninth in the NFL in 2014, they dropped back to the middle of the pack this season. The Rams finished No. 18 in the overall rankings with a cumulative score of 361, a significant drop from the 308.5 they posted in 2014 (the lower the score, the better).

By way of comparison, the Baltimore Ravens finished first with 231 points and the San Diego Chargers came in last with 490.5 points.

It should be no surprise that the Rams finished at the top of the rankings in most punting categories. Hekker, who earned All-Pro honors and his second Pro Bowl bid for his work, helped the Rams finish first in punting, net punting and punts inside the 20.

On the flip side, the other part of the kicking game let the Rams down. Kicker Greg Zuerlein 's struggles dropped the Rams to last in the league in field goal percentage. Coach Jeff Fisher has already indicated that the Rams will have competition at kicker this offseason even if Zuerlein re-signs as a free agent.

Another area that cost the Rams major points was their issues with penalties. They had a whopping 29 penalties on special teams in 2015, the most in the NFL. That's been a problem for the Rams since Fisher's arrival in 2012 and has yet to cease.

Those penalties undoubtedly cost the Rams in other categories, too, especially on punt returns. Returner Tavon Austin again lost multiple long returns because of flags.

The Rams could have more changes than at kicker this offseason. Kick returner Benny Cunningham and other key special teamers such as safety Cody Davis, linebacker Daren Bates and running back Chase Reynolds are all scheduled for restricted free agency.